Human resource policies should support working virtually. Systems must be integrated and aligned to recognize, support, and reward the people who work in and lead virtual teams.
Career-Development Systems. Team leaders can help to support virtual team members by providing career opportunities and assignments that are comparable to those in traditional team settings. Applying promotion and career-development policies and actions fairly to people who work in virtual settings helps to reinforce the perception that working virtually is an accepted career option. Virtual team members often mention that they fear that they will be looked over for promotional opportunities because they are not seen every day. This fear is not unfounded. Managers who lose visual and verbal proximity to their employees often put up the strongest resistance to alternative work and team arrangements.12 Virtual team leaders must ensure that the members of virtual teams have the same career-development opportunities as the members of traditional teams.
Rewarding Cross-Boundary Work and Results. Organizational reward and recognition systems often favor individual and functional work. Virtual team members, however, frequently operate in a cross-functional and/or cross-organizational environment. Changes must be made in the ways in which people are recognized and rewarded. Leaders must develop performance objectives for team members that include working across boundaries and sharing information to support virtual teamwork.
In addition, performance measures must be adapted to reward results. In a traditional office environment, where people are seen putting in effort every day, it is relatively easy to at least partially reward people for effort as well as for results. In a virtual environment, effort is more difficult to discern. When IBM went to a virtual environment, a shift to a reward structure that was based more on results than effort was a major part of the transition.13
The use of formal and informal public recognition of virtual teamwork through "on the spot" awards, bonuses, and other mechanisms can reinforce the perception that working virtually is valued. You can use Web-based technology, such as setting up a site for virtual team "best practices" and advertising team successes and performance, as a way to publicly recognize people in a virtual setting. You also can use examples of your virtual team's success in speeches, presentations, and discussions with other team leaders and with management.
Providing Resources and Support for Working Virtually. Create and support policies that provide your team with technical support for working remotely. All team members should have equal and immediate access to electronic communication and collaboration technology, training, and technical support.
Many virtual team leaders set a standard for technology and make certain that everyone has access to the same hardware, intranet and Internet connections, and applications. They ask the information systems group to assist in the implementation. NORTEL helps virtual team members who are telecommuters to set up "home bases" to ensure that they have access to the best and latest technology.
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